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1931 Epiphone Masterbilt Deluxe
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Serial #: 5050, gold oval "Art Instruments" label
Body size at lower bout: 16 1/2". Scale length: 25 1/2" Nut Width: 1 11/16" Neck depth, 1st/10th frets: .84/.98
Materials: Hand graduated solid Adirondack spruce top; solid handcarved curly maple back, neck and sides; solid ebony fingerboard with floral inlay; bound fingerboard and peghead with vine inlay and scribed banner insets; rope style body binding.
Hardware: Original hardware includes engraved Epiphone Masterbilt gold wraparound tailpiece, gold Waverly open back tuners (one replaced). Vintage correct adjustable compensated ebony bridge and grained ivoroid pickguard.
Notes: Introduced in this model year, the Epiphone Masterbilt Deluxe was the fanciest, most powerful archtop guitar of its day. The extravagant pearl inlay of the Deluxe made the rival L-5 look drab by contrast. But the secret weapon of Epi's top-of-the line guitar was its uniquely penetrating voice, a result of a key technical innovation. While Gibson stuck with the short scale neck of the L-5 until the late 30's, Epi pioneered the modern long scale 25 1/2" fingerboard right off the bat, giving it's guitars the projection required to replace banjos in the new big bands of the early '30s.
Therefore, we are particularly pleased to present Deluxe #5050, from the very first year of production, and the earliest Epiphone archtop we have had the pleasure to present. (As the third earliest Deluxe recorded in the online Epiphone database, this is the only one to have its original style dark sunburst finish restored to it.)
As befits an instrument of its pioneering status, this guitar exhibits features of the very earliest Masterbilt Deluxes. The soundboard is bound in the 'rope' pattern binding unique to the first examples of the model, and is fitted with the gold wraparound tailpiece with "Epiphone Masterbilt" hand engraved on the retainer. These first examples also debuted the asymmetrical headstock, with the ornate split-vine inlay and three engraved banners, and the three piece segmented soundboard. Most distinctively, the trefoil fingerboard inlay pattern on this particular guitar is accompanied by a pair of pearl ovals at the 5th and 7th frets, a design unique to this instrument alone, as far as we've seen.
Faithfully restored to original specifications in our shop, this remarkable guitar has a soundboard of fine grained Adirondack spruce, with a body and neck of handsome curly maple. Now finished in true vintage style nitrocellulose lacquer, the instrument is graced with a formal dark 'teacup' sunburst pattern, typical of the era. A single grainline crack near the bass f-hole has been soundly cleated, along with an older patch from a previous pickup installation, now virtually invisible. The original gold Waverly tuners remain in place, with a single replacement, and the guitar has been fitted with a vintage correct compensated ebony bridge. The original polished Bakelite peghead facings are intact, with the top engraved pearl banner now replaced as well.
The gleaming sunburst finish shows no pick, buckle, thumb or fingerboard wear, and all binding is tight to the body. The neck angle and bridge height are both excellent, with ample clearance for adjustment, and smooth low action over fine vintage style fretwork, with a fresh high precision setup. The solid ebony fingerboard sits atop a comfy C profile neck, very gently veed on the cheeks, with a remarkably contemporary feel. Completing the package is a vintage correct pickguard of cream grained ivoroid, crafted from an original template in our archives.
The voice is clear, even, and powerful, with parallel bracing and the long scale lending brilliant projection and cutting power. The rarest of finds, an instrument of unique historical, musical, and aesthetic value alike: the very dawn of the modern archtop guitar. One only: call now.
Setup: Bridge height adjusted; bridge compensation strobe tuned; string slots at nut and bridge inspected and recut as necessary; bridge foot contour inspected and fit to top as necessary; bridge radius inspected and recurved as necessary; bridgewheels and tuners lubricated; fingerboard and bridge conditioned; body and neck cleaned and hand polished.
This instrument is strung with medium gauge bronze strings. The guitar will accommodate lighter or heavier gauge strings, according to preference. String action is set at 5/64" to 6/64" at the 12th fret, with moderate relief for acoustic playing with medium strings. The action may be lowered or raised to your requirements with the adjustable bridge.
Case: Deluxe black plush lined arched hardshell case.
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